Weminuche Audubon meeting to focus on wildfire prevention treatments and effects on bird community populations


By Jean Zirnhelt
Weminuche Audubon Society

You are invited to join members of the Weminuche Audubon Society at their April meeting on Zoom. 

The meeting will be held on Wednesday, April 21, at 6:30 p.m. The link to join the meeting may be found on the Events tab of the website, www.weminucheaudubon.org. 

In April, we will be discussing our Bird Community Monitoring Project as we get ready for the third season of this study.

Controlled burns, thinning of tree stands and removal of the brush layer are some of the methods employed by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to protect our forests and our homes from the devastation of wildfire. Changes that people make to the forest structure affect the plants and animals that are adapted to live in these ecosystems, leading members of the local Audubon chapter to wonder how bird populations responded to these manipulations.

Under the direction of chapter vice president Herb Grover, Weminuche Audubon designed a citizen science project in 2019. This project addresses the question, “What are the effects, if any, that forest thinning treatments or prescribed fire have on bird community composition and structure?” 

With input from our partners in the project, the San Juan Forest Health Partnership, Mountain Studies Institute and the USFS, three similar areas of ponderosa pine forest were chosen as survey plots. The differences between them were in the type of fire prevention treatment which had been employed. The plot in Turkey Springs has been subjected to controlled burns, the one in Fawn Gulch to mastication of the brush layer and the one on Jackson Mountain to no treatment in recent time.

Volunteer participants in the study went out in teams to survey preassigned points and count all the birds identified by sight or sound in six minutes at each point. 2020 was the second year of our study and we all had fun learning from each other and becoming better at bird identification.

Grover will talk about the findings of the first two seasons of our study. He has been a professor of biology, ecology and environmental science classes for over two decades and continues to teach online classes for Wayland Baptist University. A man of many talents, he has produced videos explaining the project which may be viewed on YouTube by searching Grover Bird Community Monitoring. He has also written two reports which may be read on our website under the Projects tab, Bird Community Monitoring. The chapter is indebted to him for the time and energy that he has put into this project.

We are seeking volunteers for the 2021 season which extends from late May into early July. For a time commitment of only 15 hours or less, you can advance the goals of this study and join our dedicated group of participants. You need not be an expert birder. What better way is there to spend your time than out in the woods listening to birdsong?

To add your name to our volunteer list or for more information, email us at weminuche.audubon@gmail.com.